What can be happening? Where are we? Where's everybody's head? Where's mine? It's May, and I'm suddenly about to do a red carpet post. Traditionally, these only happen once or twice a year, tops. The Oscars and the Golden Globes are all I remember to care about, because those are broadcasts I cherish on TV, unlike your Grammys and your Emmys and MTV Movie Awards and Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards and whatever else they're hiding anywhere. But I'm sick with regret for all the years I haven't thought to speak of what I'm about to speak of, because this red carpet event is so majestic, so rarefied that I think it descends once a year from heaven, or maybe the Horsehead Nebula.
Please be seated.
Hold one moment. I have to brush my teeth and spray on some perfume. And I can't write about this in this shirt. I'm going to change into my wedding dress.
Let us bow our heads and get ready to consider the red carpet from the Metropolitan Museum's Annual Costume Institute Gala, aka The Met Ball.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is an insanely la-di-da affair that's been happening every year since 1971. Anna Wintour, Vogue magazine's Chief Queen of the Unswerving Bob, has been presiding over it for almost twenty years. Every year there's a theme around which the attendees dress in homage. Last year's theme was punk, and this year the ball honored the work of the designer Charles James. In a minute we'll look at the kinds of things he dreamed up, but first I want to talk about why this event gives me the vapors so hard.
This is really the only red carpet event where people dress up in the name of fashion as art, and not just as a personal be-hottening mechanism. The goal here is not just to look elegant or beautiful or sexy, but to be a little bit of a living exhibit. And the theme lends unity to the whole event, which is an aesthetic treat. But you get to see the theme brought to life through so many prisms: different designers, different levels of commitment or boldness or faithfulness or rebellion from the participants. And it's fun because it's the king of the sartorial challenges. If the red carpet at the Oscars is a Harvard-level throwdown, the red carpet at the Met is Harvard plus Oxford times the Sorbonne on the planet Vulcan. The game is on, do you get me? ON.
Now let's meet Charles James and see what we're talking about.
Here is Charles James with a Hearst person. I wanted you to see the man of the hour. Now dig the majesty of his designs, and get a sense of the spirit the attendees were meant to capture.
Bang. This is the Charles Jamesiest possible way to begin.
Look at that signature shape. Like space lilies drinking out of champagne flutes.
Something a little more ethereal, but still with a little sharpness/pointiness.
Ribbon cape, 1937. There's a whole wedding happening under there, with a band and everything.
You're getting the gist, I bet. We'll look at a couple more, and then on to the carpet.
What are you, sculpted dream marshmallow? Are you a bed jacket? Can we wear you to the opera? I would never take this off. What could ever hurt me again?
Okay, friends. We're schooled enough now. We should get moving. There's just so much to see and say.
We begin with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who are doing it up just right, Met-Ball-style, and also thoughtfully demonstrating some themes for the evening. Black and white is a big one, and Beyoncé is sporting the deep, severe lip that always looks so correct at this party. I like the 1930s boudoir scene happening here, too. This is what you slip on after you've taken off your Charles James at the end of the evening and you're ready to pop some Barry White on the gramophone and ride up on that surfboard.
Karolina Kurkova is on super-pointy point thematically with her dress, but she's styled out a little boringly, I'm afraid. My feeling is that every Met Gala look should have more than a touch of "what the fuck?" about it. Because that's art, weasels.
Liu Wen, whoever she may be, is delivering perfect thematic and WTF levels. She's wearing dramatic lipstick and being eaten alive by an ultrachic sea creature. This is look is an excellent example of why I cream myself over the Met Ball. So grand.
Jessica Paré is this happy because a) she's at the Met Motherfucking Ball and b) she's nailed it in her poofy, printy Michael Kors gown and glamorous updo. She's going to lead us into a neighborhood that I call "COME ON, DOVER, MOVE YOUR BLOOMING ARSE!" because everyone in this neighborhood looks like they've wandered off the set of the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady. Black and white and black and white and black and white for miles.
I respect Greta Gerwig here for coming on so harsh and strong in the name of art, and sacrificing a little prettiness on the way. That pulled-back hair looks like it hurts like fuck, and ain't nothing soft going on with her face, but again, that's not what this night is about. This night is for painting a big collective picture. Some of these bitches we'll examine later seem to have left their paintbrushes at home so they could look like pretty princesses, so troopers like Greta Gerwig end up having to paint a little harder. You go, Gerwig. Get a head massage this week. You've earned it.
Greta Gerwig is wearing an Olivier Theyskens dress, and who's here but Mr. Olivier Theyskens himself! He looks fresh and innocent, somehow, like a cross between Michael Jackson and an undiscovered Kardashian sister who's been hiding away living a pure life on the border of Tibet and Nepal. With him is Felicity Jones, who looks nice and is wearing black, which is the black part of black and white, so welcome to the neighborhood.
Anna Kendrick is certainly quite the little lady here. Grandmothers everywhere are going to slip an extra $10 into her birthday card this year. Not enough WTF, but I can only assume she's backpedalling from the critical WTF levels she reached at the Oscars. She appears to be holding herself very carefully so she won't go inside and bump over some priceless statue.
Lily Allen is perfect. Art City, USA, and cute as an avant-garde little button. I briefly could not tell if she was holding a clutch or a very dressy, matching bag of snack chips, but I begrudge her neither.
Chloe Grace Moretz is like fuck you, Anna Kendrick. Grandmother likes me best.
Do you see how good this Met Gala is? It's so good that after I write this Naomi Watts bit, I'm going to write 33 more about other people. It's 10:14 pm. It's so good that I'm going to be writing about 33 more attendees and it's 10:15 pm and I've been doing this all day already. For the love of the game, people. Naomi Watts was dipped in fire and charred by the devil and I'm glad, glad, I tell you, because the blackened ashes of her gown are badass and thought-provoking.
Anna Kendrick was probably carrying herself so gingerly up there because she doesn't want to cut herself on Margot Robbie.
'Ello, guv'nor! 'Ere's Kate Upton modeling a li'l sumfing from the Frederick's of Hollywood Eliza Doolittle Collection. All she wants is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, if you take my meaning! And I fink you do, seeing as how you're a man o' the world.
Note: I stand by Kate Upton here. She's going for it, you know? She's helping to create atmosphere. I don't think she's exactly pulling this off, but remember, this is the Costume Institute Gala, so points for erring in the direction of costuminess.
And points for not being so eternally tasteful and boring and understated as Sophia Coppola. I will give Sophia Coppola one thousand human dollars if she just once shows up somewhere not dressed like a twelve-year-old on her way to church.
Rihanna, show her how it's done.
Rihanna will full-on light up a spliff right in front of Anna Wintour, and then she'll make out with Anna Wintour's date and put out the spliff in Anna Wintour's bob. I feel so much better.
LaLa Anthony is another breath of fresh, post-Coppola air. She's doing her own thing and Charles James's thing all mixed together.
Okay, now, wow. This is some very strong post-Coppola medicine. It's like Scarlett O'Hara's heroin-addicted cousin has just wandered onto the plantation and fucked Rhett Butler and both Tarleton twins in the middle of the Twelve Oaks barbecue, right there in front Aunt Pittypat and everybody. Land sakes, Katie Holmes!
Here is some virginal pastel shimmer, which I'd be feeling if Hayden Panettiere weren't the delivery system. It's the Met Ball, sister! You brought your prom head! You are a prom head.
Look, I'll be frank. I don't know how Lupita Nyong'o's gown tips a hat to the Charles James theme, but it pleases me anyway, unless I stare at it too long. Then I start collecting doubts. And I don't feel like collecting doubts, so I'm going to glance and run!
Michelle Williams is so aggressively understated here that I kind of want to pop her one. This is along those same Sophia Coppola, I-don't-want-anybody-to-catch-me-trying lines. I'm so cool that I can throw on a little shift for the Met Ball. I love you, Michelle Williams, but no, you're not.
Okay, now we've entered a neighborhood where I start to wonder, what, what exactly, is appropriate for this event? My radar says Rosie Huntington-Whitely is doing just fine, but why? She's in a short dress, but it's structured and gilt, so it feels like it passes muster. Also, hang on, are those leopard stripes? It's not disqualifying if they are, but are they? Whatever. I like this.
And Dee Hemingway, of the Hemingway Hemingways, I presume, what's all this, then? This is elegant and chic as balls—well, I should say more elegant and chic than balls, but anyway, while it certainly is delightful, is it right? The men were requested to wear white tie and tails, you know? Is this enough? Do women just have loads and loads of leeway, as long as they look fabulous? These are the questions that plague our time.
Elizabeth Olson is understandably a little glum because she was told she'd be allowed to ice skate but then there was no rink, and now she's going to have to do her routine in heels on the regular floor. Oh, well, here goes run run run run JUMP TRIPLE AXL OH NO THIS WAS A TRULY HORRIBLE LANDING OH GOD MY ANKLES ICE PACK ICE PACK ICE PACK
She looks so innocent, like she got dressed for the kindergarten formal all by herself. Also, will somebody stage a production of King Lear, please, and let Elizabeth Olson be Cordelia?
And let Mary Kate and Ashley Olson be Goneril and Regan?? Look, they're already doing it! They already know what to do!
Anna Wintour could play Lear! She's got a temper! She's resistant to change*!
One day I'm going to save a picture of Anna Wintour and plug it into one of those upload-your-face-and-try-a-different-hairstyle apps. I could be amused for hours like that. PERM. REDHEAD. CORNROWS.
Lena Dunham is such a smartie-pie. She's someone who's always going to wear the right thing to this affair. It's a puzzle she's built to crack. This is a joy, the best thing I've ever seen her in: simultaneously sophisticated and young, offbeat and respectful, somehow. I heart it.
Kate Mara is a very pretty, sullen, garden moss fairy who used her magical fairy powers to sneak into the Met Ball and creep around. Good job, sullen moss fairy! You blend in! And the shape is Jamesian, too!
Ivanka Trump, on the other hand, is the queen of the garden moss fairies and she straight-up got an invite, walked in the front door and nailed it.
Tabitha Simmons is also from Fairy Forest, where they apparently know a lot about Charles James. She is giving me my WTF money's worth like crazy, in the best way. Flowers flowers flowers flowers! This is exactly the kind of thing I hope for when I come a-calling for the Met Ball.
Chrissy Teigen is like an iced coffee that spilled out of the Milky Way. Sexy, celestial and still pleasingly prim and Jamesian with that neck ruffle. And now I'm going to tell you something that I actively know will make me more lame, but I'm going to do it anyway. One day I opened up Twitter, and found that Chrissy Teigen was following me. A supermodel. It was so senseless. Was she lost? See, this is humblebraggy and very, very be-lame-ening to discuss, BUT I MUST, because why did this happen? What I'm trying to tell you is that after I die, if I'm granted a peek into the workings of the world/the behind-the-scenes footage of my life, I'm going to float over to the moment she followed me and figure out which tweet of mine did it. Also, do you think she talks about me to John Legend? Do you think he's written some songs about me? Probably. Every time I see her now, I think she must be the nicest, best person in the world.And now I understand that you might have to go. Goodbye. Thank you for knowing me this long.
I love Emma Stone, and I can see a teeny bit of Charles James lurking around the skirt here somewhere, I guess, but I am of the opinion that you mustn't dress like a strawberry smoothie made out of yoga pants to the Met Ball, in a crop top and everything. She looks beautiful, don't get me wrong, but it's too loosey-goosey. Nobody should show up to this thing looking like they'd be perfectly comfortable if they suddenly jumped on a couch and rented a movie.
Anne Hathaway is balanced on the knife edge of success and not-quite-success here. The simplicity is extreme, which tips her both ways. Too extreme and therefore a touch dull! Super extreme and therefore maybe sharp and interesting! But what if the whole carpet is actually part of her dress? That would be very interesting! I...no, I can't land one way or another. I do not know if this is good or bad or in the middle. I'm malfunctioning. I can deliver no verdict. Whichever one I pick, it's probably the other one.
Claire Danes is another one who looks lovely and appropriate but could have done more. And I'd love this at the Oscars or the Golden Globes. But we are not there, are we? Have I mentioned where we are? Well, I'll tell you, Claire. You might be slightly busted for dressing too simply, but just wait.
Because what in the name of baby booties is this girl doing? Child, where do you imagine you've wandered? This is not your bridal shower. This is not your graduation brunch. This is not a super dressy cocktail party at your friend's apartment. This is the motherfucking Met Ball, motherfucker! Look alive! Jesus!
See, Janelle Monae has just run a Met Ball clinic. This is how you do it. They should have just slammed the door after Janelle Monae and not let anybody else in. I hope they carted her around on a throne all night. I hope they had a follow spot on her. Dang.
Year after year, when I talk about red carpets, I say, "Sorry, fellas! Your tuxedos make me sleepy! I have nothing to say to you unless something interesting happens!" And so hurray to Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, who are the equivalent of an alarm clock set at top volume across the room at 5 am. WHAT HOLY SHIT OKAY I'M AWAKE I'M AWAKE. (I sincerely love this, too. I find it witty and delightful.)
While I do normally get the sleeps with men's formal wear, white tie and tails are enough of a change that I'm genuinely enthralled. Bradley Cooper looks very "Eh, wot? Jolly good, let's retire for cigars and port and leave the ladies to their business." Stodgy-foxy. Fox hunt! Boom. Got one.
And Andy Cohen should just make white tie and tails his default look, even there in the Bravo Clubhouse, doing shotskis, handing out the Jackhole-of-the-Day award. He just shouldn't stop, because he looks like one billion dollars.
I have a few more tickets to give out, though. It's not my fault; I have a quota. And then we'll end on some high notes.
The answer to the question "Whatever happened to Baby Jane?" is right here wrapped around Stephanie Seymour. Baby Jane took excellent care of herself and ate right and got herself a very good surgeon, is what happened to her, and now she's a thriving baby in a fancy baby romper, thank you very much.
I feel like M.C. Escher maybe drew Donatella Versace tonight, because she has the proportions of three different people. She's a normal-sized person on top (sized, I said, SIZED) and a little bit smaller person in the middle, and then a very small disappearing person on the bottom. Among other things, sure. There are other things going on. But Donatella Versace's Donatella Versace-ness is as it ever was, and doesn't need my comment.
Oh, hurray! Do you know who this is?? This is none other than Sandra Lee, of the Food Network's Semi-Homemade fame! I jumped for joy when I saw her here like this. If you've never watched her show, you must. It's completely bananas. The show is just what it sounds like; she makes dishes half out of premade stuff from the grocery store and half from scratch. The food is horrifying, all pound cakes and pigs in a blanket with homemade chimichurri or whatever, but the real joy is that she has a different color scheme in her kitchen with every episode, and she dresses to match her kitchen, and then at the end of the episode she makes something she calls a tablescape. Oh my stars and garters. Tablescape. The table is decorated within an inch of its life, and so tall and crazy that no guest could possibly see a guest who's sitting on the other side. You'd just hear voices on the other side of the tablescape and assume they belong to real people who are really there. There would be no way to verify, either, because you'd be trapped behind/underneath fifty different plates and napkin-sculptures. So I'm delighted, DELIGHTED, that Sandra Lee is dressed exactly like both a tablescape and one of her own recipes. Half-couture and half-Cool Whip! If I could do a cartwheel, I would. Just assume that I am right now.
Amanda Peet, however, is a tablescape I would really make. So twisty-deco-modern-glorious.
Every day is the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Gala for Florence Welch. She could pop by on the way home from the gym, and this is what she'd already be wearing.
And here's the winner of the Met Ball, Miss Sarah Jessica Parker. She's got it all: scale, thematic perfection, quirk, cojones. There is nowhere else on earth that this look makes sense, but here it's right smack in the middle of the bullseye's bullseye. But we can't leave here with Oscar de la Renta's signature hanging in the air, the last thing we see. No, we have to drag the real designer of the hour back on stage to take another bow.
Don't ask what her hands are doing. Don't ruin this. They're doing what they're supposed to be doing. They're making tablescapes. They're making art.
Good night, Charles James. Good night, Met Ball. Fuck you both for being so good because I made this post twice the size I normally do, and now it's a trillion o'clock and I'm going to die.